Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The one where I 'come out' (Part One)

I write this post series with a degree of apprehension, not because I am ashamed of the content, but because I suspect it may produce a few uncomfortable waves on what has always been a fairly calm sea.  It may cause the boat to rock.

So why write?  Because, in the attempt not to create ripples for others, my internal boat is being tossed about ferociously in a raging storm.  The extreme motion is nauseating, with thoughts and emotions churning, waiting to be spewed during an unexpected moment of weakness.  And when it happens, there will be little time to run into a place of inconspicuousness - it will be messy and people will be caught in the line of fire. 

Whilst this would cause vexation and discomfort,  it wouldn't be the end of the world.  Embarrassed apologies would be offered, the mess cleaned up, and the smell fade with time.  The incident would soon become a distant memory and life would move on.

But this is what I am afraid of.  Life moving on, and nothing really changing.  The risk is then that the very same attitudes and experiences that have caused anxiety, heartache and confusion in my life, could far too easily become entangled in the experiences of others.  Is this really what I want?  Do I wish to see others struggling to navigate the familiar stormy waters?

No, I really don't.  Not at all.  It hasn't been fun.  It has silenced me and held me back.  At times it has caused me to question and even hate who I am.  Strong words, but it is time to be honest.   No more hiding at the bottom of the seabed in the hope that the storm will pass, and the fierce waves surrender to calmer waters. 

Running away wont help.  Exploding over it wont help.  As I see it now, there is only one answer to the problem, and that is to open up the discussion in an open, honest, and loving way.  I acknowledge that this will be uncomfortable for some, just as it has been for me over the years, and I hope that my thoughts will be received with the graciousness with which I will aim to write.  I am not looking to offend or cause irritation, but merely to share a journey traveled in order to encourage a change in attitudes and practice.

But what about unity?  This has been something I have literally lost sleep over.  What if my speaking up causes discomfort and upset?  What if it leaves people in a place of confusion, being forced to consider the crossroads in their own journey of understanding?  What if ignorance was bliss and I burst their bubble?

But, what if my honest speaking has an alternative effect and begins to challenge oppression?

Should it be completely overlooked for the sake of unity?

How might those being oppressed answer?

Does love encourage us to hide oppression or expose it? 

I know what I think.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:18-19).

I had no idea this preamble would take me to this verse.  Originally, I expected only to share a journey of conformity and confusion in order to offer a glimpse of hope to those riding the same storm.  However, having given my fingers permission to type what is truly in my heart and mind, it seems the foundation upon which these words are formed, is the desire to see the above verse realised here on earth.  I can no longer gloss over these words, leaving them in the hands of someone else.  It is time to accept this is my responsibility.

My own journey involves oppression.  Perhaps not to the extremity experienced by so many others, but enough to hold me back, and force me to create a persona that says 'this is fine', whilst in reality it hurts.  And I know I am not alone here.

The cause of such oppression?  My being a woman.  More specifically, my experience of what it means to be a Christian woman.  

Over the next few posts, I intend to share my journey from being a fairly wild ten year old who fought for gender equality in primary school, to becoming a Christian and obediently accepting female subordination as being God ordained, through to the gradual reexamination of the scriptures and my arrival at a more informed understanding of them.

I now believe in equality.

I believe men and women are equal in value and that roles should be given based on character and gifting and not on gender.  

I am an Egalitarian.  

Still prepared to read my journey?  I hope so.  I seek to encourage a willingness to reexamine scriptures, attitudes, and mindsets - not because I want to be seen as 'right' - but because I believe Christians have a responsibility to release the oppressed - and sadly, this is the experience of many women today.


You may also like:
Part Two of this series
Part Three of this series
Part Four of this series 
Part Five of this series


  1. FYI I love who you are, remember I want to be like you when I grow up! But in all seriousness thank you for considering others for whom this is a struggle and feel unconfident & unable to communicate their thoughts & frustrations. Please keep posting & I'll keep reading :)

  2. Your thoughtfulness strengthens and deepens your message, Jo. And for what it's worth, I completely agree with you. Strength for the journey -- Laura

  3. Thank you for your honesty on sharing where you're at! I look forward to reading you next posts. Well done for speaking out. As we share our stories Jesus' truth will come out! "They defated the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony" (Revelation 12:11)

    Blessing to you!

  4. I am glad you are able to post on this - I'm sure it wasn't easy. It's only fair that this side of the argument is posted as let's face it the other side has had more than its fair share of air time.

    As a man, I hope I have never made you or anyone else feel oppressed, whether due to gender or anything else.

    Which ever side we're on, one thing both can agree on is God's love for us and the fact that Jesus said the most important commandments were the "love" ones and Paul said love was the greatest gift of the Spirit. To my mind this should dispel any oppressive behaviour, whether along the lines of this issue or any other. I feel a post of my own coming on!

  5. I admire your courage in being able to speak out on this, and look forward to this series of posts. It's important we hear this side of the argument, and I pray God is with you as you pour out your heart on this matter and touch what will be some painful nerves. God bless you and protect you as you share this with us, and draw you closer to Himself. Thanks again for sharing. JP.

  6. Very good post, Jo! Looking forward to the follow ups!

  7. Jo, your honesty is beautiful and I encourage you to keep walking on that water. You will get wet feet, the spray will get in your eyes and your hair will be whipped by the wind BUT...you will be out on the water with Jesus and that is the only place to be. Do keep sharing with this level of raw vulnerability (however apprehensively!) because you don't know who you will help. :) Chloe

  8. "I believe men and women are equal in value and that roles should be given based on character and gifting and not on gender.

    I am an Egalitarian. "

    Very well put. I guess I am too, though the locus of my spiritual and emotional life is not the church, any longer. I go to church of course, but focus more on small groups and one on one friendships rather than institutional involvement.

    Have you come across the blog of my friend Lesley Crawley, revdlesley.net
    or Rachel Held Evans rachelheldevans.com a passionate egalitarian?

    Blessings, Jo, and I hope we get to meet in real life some time,

  9. I've also experienced oppression by other Christians due to being a woman. I believe that most Christian women have, although not all will recognize it as such. Some of this oppression is deliberate, but most is unconscious because the attitudes that cause it are embedded in prevailing culture, structures, theological understanding and interpretation of Scripture. That is why it can be so scary to speak out, especially in a situation where the idea of 'male headship' is strongly supported. Keep sharing - you will help others (men and women)but it may not be a comfortable ride. But when did Jesus tells us that following him is easy?

  10. Firstly, thanks for the twitter follow. Wondering how you found me?

    Secondly, I'm hoping this post will kick start my own reflection on being a woman and a Christian and a church leader. Three things combined together make for one confused and conflicted person. Thanks for writing, your timing is perfect.


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